Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Pink Heart Society

Kate Walker blogged today about The Pink Heart Society which Irish author Trish Wylie started at the beginning of the year. Tired of romances being dissed by all and sundry, and particularly weary of people thinking she should somehow hide her "addiction" to romance fiction, Trish decided instead to wave the banner proudly.

So she began The Pink Heart Society and invites all readers and writers of romance fiction to join. The "official" launch is tomorrow, September 1st. Of course it's been gathering steam for months. And the launch will be a formality -- but what a great formality it is. Drop by tomorrow and visit the rest of us pink heart aficionados. Join us on a yahoo!groups list, if you'd like.

I'll be there when I've finished shooting -- er, lining up -- my ducks!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ducks on the March

Five of Spence and Sadie's ducks are marching pretty nicely now. So we're, I think, more than halfway there. The stragglers will get a look-see in the next couple of days. The goal is to have them ready to fly in good formation by Monday. Some of them are flying Monday, regardless of whether all of them are ready to go or not. Those who are ready are taking off.

They've been promised to the editor, who has promised to read them this week (which is why we want ALL of them ready to go). It would be lovely to know what she wants done with them before I head off for England mid-month. If it's not a vast amount I might even be able to do it. But first I have to get them ready and send them in the first place.

Once they are gone, I think Spence and Sadie might come back and blog again. They're too busy right now to do anything other than work. But by next week they should have their happily ever after (I hope). Wish them luck.
Last day to sign up for the Wedding Bells II contest is Sept 1st. Stop by my website and do so, if you haven't already.

Gunnar is looking forward to lots of treats (he learned from Sid, Kate Walker's cat, that he who chooses the winners gets lots of treats -- a treat for every entry.) So he wants LOTS of participants! Do Gunnar a favor -- sign up!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ducks in a row

Three of Spence and Sadie's ducks are in a row. Five more of them are weaving a bit drunkenly around behind the first three, alternately clamoring for their turn to be lined up and then saying they'd rather wait.

Can't wait. Gotta get in line. It's that time of the book. Once the first scene -- which has conservatively taken more time to write than the all the rest of the book put together -- worked, I had a much better handle on how to make sure everything else was working too. One thing, circularly, leads to another.

I was going to say it's like the chicken and the egg, but I think we're relying a bit too much on poultry here. So, it's like the duck and the egg. Okay. And now that the chapter one duck is in full feather, the rest of them are looking better too. I figure with about 5 more 10 hour days I should have them all lined up and marching toward Richmond. Or winging cyber-spatially toward Richmond. I can hardly wait.

I want to have a life again. I want to walk my dogs further than three quarters of a mile. I want to watch movies and read books and go to the aquarium. I know I just got back from a week of "life" in Montana. I know I saw a son get married. I know I spent 10 hours in the Denver airport (which, by the way, seems a lot longer than ten hours at the computer working). But I want more of it.

I want to do genealogy again. I want to find clues to the family of mysterious gggg-grandfather, Thomas Hocking of Crowan, Cornwall. Was he hatched? (More poultry. We have a theme!) Did he drop from outer space? Did someone find him under a rock. Inquiring minds are going to be trying to find that out in Cornwall. And mine wants to do some work before I leave.

So . . . back to the ducks.

Just two and a half more days until the Wedding Bells II contest ends. Sign up now on my website if you haven't already.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Less Is More

See, I told you I wouldn't get to "Go" any time soon.

The problem is cutting things down, streamlining them, making sure everything that is needed is in the first chapter -- and nothing else. I have to give the reader just enough to understand and empathize with Sadie, without giving her too much background to slow the story down. And it's work.

It's more work cutting than it is writing in the first place. Because economy is all. Being spare and quick is what it's all about. Otherwise the reader gets bored. They want to cut to the chase, and if I don't do that, they won't read.

So, I've been reworking the first 10 pages over and over and over. I've probably written 15,000 words to get 4500 words eventually. I hope. I'm not there yet. The rest of it flows reasonably well. And the first chapter will eventually. I won't let it out of the house until it does. And once it does, the last part of the book should come up much better too.

Less isn't only more, it's harder.

Are we having fun yet?

Wedding Bells II contest closes Sept 1. Enter now on my website for a box of "wedding-related" books and other goodies.

I'm trying to think of things for the scavenger hunt. Hmmmmm.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Get Set . . .

This is the part that takes the longest -- getting everything set. We might be here a few more days before we get to "go."

Right now I am back threading through the subplot stuff that I didn't know enough about when I first wrote the book to be able to include it then. But now I do, and ideally it should just fit right in without me having to strangle characters to get them to accept new words. Hahahaha.

So I'm currently messing in chapter one, trying to help Sadie sort out all the stuff and put it in the right order so when it all comes to pass in chapter six (and later) there won't be any surprises. Well, there may be, but they will have been set up earlier and so you can't say I didn't warn you.

But doing it takes time. It's nitpicking. Tedious. Mind-dulling. All of the above. And yet it has to "sparkle" on the page or the editor (and readers) are going to toss the book across the room, yawn and say, "Why bother?"

I want them to bother.

So . . . if you don't hear from me for a few days it's because I'm threading and sorting and lining up ducks and then I have to go back and finish the book. This is what usually happens. The last part gets written after everything else is sorted out. And there's no quick way to do it. It's just a matter of slogging through.

Right. Back to work. Have fun out in the real world.

And don't forget to sign up for the wedding bells II contest which is ending September 1st. You can do it on my website .

Saturday, August 26, 2006

On Your Mark . . .

What I said last night about being unable to find the way into a scene seems to have resonated with a few people, as illustrated by Anne Frasier's comment and some emails I've had. It has made me think about how to approach a scene -- or how I approach them.

My beloved copy-editor, Judi Cross, who has tangled with many of my books over the last 17 or so years, has often pointed out to me that I garble my tenses. And I don't do it to annoy her, regardless of what she thinks. I do it so I can plunge myself, my characters and my readers immediately into the action at hand.

Sometimes the only way to do that is to dive in in the middle of the scene, right where the tension is high, and then back off just a little to develop the setting and the mind-set of the characters going into it after. This, of course, makes me write in past perfect, which is the part that drives Judi understandably nuts, but she's learned to be a good sport about it. And if things get too garbled, she makes me take another look and straighten it all out chronologically.

But I do think that, despite the dependence on past perfect, jumping straight in -- even with a brief backpedal -- is a good way to do it.

It's easier, of course, when it can just progress chronologically. But sometimes the set-up is too long and boring that way. And a writer needs to drag readers into the action first, then give them the set up, which they wouldn't have had the patience for if they didn't already feel the tension.

I've been aware of this again as I've tried "tweaking" (editor term for what a writer might call "gutting") a scene at the beginning of Spence and Sadie. There is a long "set up" when the book starts. I didn't want to start it there because of the length of the set up. But setting it when the conflict was about to start meant I had to go back and do too much set up later. So I needed to hint at tension from the start.

I've got a first line now that I think will do it. As long as readers keep it in mind while I'm doing the rest of the set up, we'll be okay.

Or my editor can think of another way to accomplish the same thing. That's her job, after all. And she's good at it. I'm curious to see what she thinks.

In the meantime, at last . . . chapter nine.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Brain Dead

I think it was the hours in the Denver airport that fried my brain. I am ordinarily a pretty easy-going traveler. And I might have been in Denver had I thought that anything the airline did there made sense.

I have no trouble with waiting for hours due to acts of God, no problems with mechanical repairs, complete understanding of the need for crews to sleep. I will wait patiently for hours and hours through endless security checks. I was, after all, scheduled to fly out of New York City on 9-11. I consider that I have already dodged a very big bullet.

So I am tolerant in general when it comes to airline delays. But when I think they could have been avoided with a little forethought, I lose patience. So I fumed silently (or not so silently) for hours, and as a result, I am brain dead.

It has taken me three days to get the suitcases unpacked and the laundry done. I have gone back over chunks of Spence and Sadie and my mind has glazed over. My eyes have rolled back in my head. And all I can do is think about pithy things I would like to say to the president of a certain airline. I can not seem to think about chapter nine.

I need to think about chapter nine. I actually need to think about chapter ten. Well, in fact I have thought about both, but so far the lead-in sentence has eluded me. Once the sentence appears (when I am no longer brain dead) I will progress.

Anne Frasier, on her blog, writes about getting to the heart of a scene and how sometimes when she is having problems, it is due to not being able to focus on what is the essence of what needs to be accomplished therein. I understand and agree with what she said. But sometimes (particularly the brain dead times) it is finding the right line to open a scene that makes all the difference.

For example, I know precisely what is going to happen in the next scene. I know what is at its heart. But I do not know how to start it. And so I stare at the page. I write around it, I circle it, I fumble, I mutter. And I still do not have the right words. At nearly 1 in the morning, I suspect the words may not come right now. So I am going to bed -- committing the heart of the scene to memory and asking my sub-conscious, where there may yet be a living cell or two, to get busy and come up with a line. Please!

In the meantime, I have discovered that my printer does a dynamite job on wedding photos -- and that I can not (as opposed to the contraction of those two words) use the apostrophe key on my computer. It has apparently quit for the night. Which means that it is definitely time to pack it in and go to bed!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What a wedding!

Inasmuch as it took us 19 hours to get home yesterday (a trip that was supposed to take about 7) I'm pretty much going on adrenaline still.

But I thought maybe, since I'm incoherent, a few photos would suffice -- just to give you the setting and suchlike. It was a lovely day and a good time was had by all. The top photo is where they got married. The second is the ceremony. The third is right before the reception. The last one is the dance floor where the barn dance was held.

Monday, August 21, 2006


The wedding came off with only one "hitch" -- the right one! And it was absolutely beautiful. So was the bride and so was the weather (the groom was very handsome, too, said his mother without any prejudice whatsoever), and it couldn't have been a better day.

We went out in the late afternoon for picture taking and it was good thing we found the ranch beforehand, because it wasn't until we were past it, the first time that we spotted the "wedding" sign stuck into the hay bale! Wish I'd got a picture of it because I could post it. When we got back we told everyone to look for the field where the Clydesdales were, but not to get too entranced by the Clydesdales because they would miss the turn.

The wedding was in a beautiful meadow overlooking a wheat fields and, beyond them, the mountains. The day was spectacular -- sunny and warm, but with a nice breeze, and behind us, a summer storm (heading the other way) formed over the mountains. Looking back we could see it and watch it head east.

In honor of Sid, there was a cat who walked down the "aisle" with the celebrant, and who wove his way in and through peoples' legs all during the wedding. He gave the couple his blessing, then ambled off in search of mice.

After we had more pics and a wonderful meal and the best blue grass group I've heard in a long while played lots of old favorites. Afterwards we went up in the barn for a "barn dance" and I'd like to say that the dance wore out my granddaughter, but she danced EVERY ONE and was still wide awake when we got back to the hotel that night. Six must be a powerful age!

The bride and groom have now gone off to their house and then to go kayaking and hiking for a few days. It's definitely a case of "begin as you mean to go on," because they met rock climbing and they've been doing a lot of it ever since. They know how to handle challenges and difficulties and I predict a happily ever after. If two people ever deserved it, they do.

It was a joyous occasion and I know that sharing an anniversary weekend with them will be special to them and to us for the rest of our lives.

Thank you all for the good wishes. Very much appreciated.

Spence and Sadie enjoyed the rest. I went back this afternoon and looked at chapter one. It needs tightening and trimming and, as my editor would say, "tweaking." It need punching up a bit, but the enthusiasm is flowing -- and is less distracted now. So I hope all goes well once I get back at it tomorrow!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Happy Anniversary to us!


We are gathering the clan for the wedding tomorrow and celebrating our own anniversary today. It was a great treat to have all of our kids, those spouses who were available and several of the grandkids as well as my aunt and her granddaughter to celebrate last night at dinner with us. If I could figure out how to down load a photo (just one) off my camera (as opposed to the 162 that are there) I would post it as the waitress kindly took one for "evidence" since we only seem to do this about every 10 years. Definitely worth the wait.

Three chapters of Spence and Sadie have come along to be read and revised but none of them have been done so far. And may not get done today either. But there is always the long flight back home to get them done. The full rough draft didn't get finished, but the rough rough draft did. So things are on track.

Hope everyone else is having a good weekend. We certainly are!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Amendments by a cat

Sid objected to the picture of The Phraud. (see his comments under that posting). He has sent me other pawtraits which I am to post instead.

As The Phraud has been identified and should not be confused with Sid (A Cat Of Superior Breeding) I feel I can leave the photo there so people who might be inclined to mistake him for Sid are warned that he exists. Think of the photo as a sort of "post office mug shot" if you will.

But to appease himself, I am including, for your delectation and admiration, a group of Sid photos to tide you over in case I don't get to blog while I'm busy this weekend being Mother of the Groom.

If you don't get enough of him here, you can see him on Kate's blog where he has taken over today, too. (There is no end to the grasp of that cat!)

Sid and Duck

Sid doing Pilates

Sid doing his Richard Farnsworth smile

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Saga of Sid . . . a cat of substance

Many of you who read this blog know my good friend Kate Walker as well. You also, if you know Kate, have met Sidney.

Sidney aka Sir Sidney St John Willoughby Portly-Lummox, ACOSB, Bart. is Kate's cat. Or Kate is Sid's human, which seems more likely.

Sid is, to put it bluntly, a cat of substance. And Opinions (with a capital O). He and I have been corresponding for several years as he is a cat with literary pretensions and broad interests.

Back in 2001 when I was at the editorial office in London, my editor asked what I was going to do for the rest of my vacation, and I said, "I'm going to visit Kate Walker's cat." She was, as the Brits say, gobsmacked.

But it was true.

Sid had invited me. He'd even prepared a room for me. The Throne Room, he called it. And he made sure Kate did it up in regal purple. It was elegant, as you might imagine it would be. Sid approved. And then he tested the bed daily to be sure it was ready for me and for The Prof.

Sid knows how to look after his own -- and his guests.

We had a lovely time visiting Sid and his humans. And I have invited him back to ours, but he has yet to come. He does not seem to think flying across the pond is a good idea. As a cat who had Adventures in his life before he came to Kate's and took over, Sid is leery of leaving his Lincolnshire palace. He knows he never had it so good, and he has no intention of having his position usurped.

There is not much danger of that, except for the fly in the ointment -- The Phraud.

The Phraud is Sid's alter ego, the c.a.t. who sneaks in and pretends to be Sid while posing in the most unflattering ways.

Just last week for my birthday, Kate sent me a photo (see photo immediately above) that purported to be Sid. But I could tell instantly that The Phraud had substituted one of himself because Sid would NEVER be quite so undignified. I do admit however that the resemblance is uncanny.

Still, Sid assures me he has booted The Phraud out. And he just sent a picture of himself (see top photo), awakening from a nap to prove that he is indeed in possession of the cat bed -- even though it is really Dyl the Vil's cat bed (Dyl being a much smaller cat and not regal in the least).

I get to visit Sid next month. I can hardly wait. But in the meantime, I have to get S&S out of here. I wrote a review last night -- until 3 a.m. actually -- for the National Genealogical Society's NewsMagazine. So that's one task finished. So's the laundry I've been doing all morning.

Okay, playtime over. Now back to Spence and Sadie.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dazed and Confused . . . and Pleased?

The "dazed and confused" part is typical of me at the end of a book. I am suddenly filled with the ability to write and write and write and get totally absorbed in the resolution of the book. But at the same time, I lose touch with the real world which seems to go on quite happily without me.

And that accounts, I think, for the "pleased" part -- because this morning when I was reading Kate Walker's blog about Trish's winning book, she mentioned that two of her own books had been nominated as Reviewer's Choice Awards at the CataRomance site. And I thought, good on you, Kate! That's terrific. So I was pleased for her -- and for all the other finalists.

And now I'm even more pleased because, according to Kate, I'm a finalist, too, for The Antonides Marriage Deal.

Now, I'm not positive that this is true. But she tells me that there is a link which has the books listed on it -- and I've been to see the books on the list and, yes, it is there. But it's there twice. And it was reviewed twice, so I'm wondering if every book reviewed was there as many times as it was reviewed. Which is nice, but goes back to the "dazed and confused" part, if you see what I mean.

So, I'm pleased for Kate -- and Trish -- and everyone else who is a finalist, which might include me, but I'm not sure. I'm also a bit sad because the "awards ceremony" is going to be online on August 18th -- and I would love to be there. But of course, as this is "wedding weekend" I will be busy elsewhere (and happily so). Still, thanks, CataRomance! You're great!

I have had another bit of amazing news, too. I've just learned that The Antonides Marriage Deal has been promoted at the annual Antonides Family Reunion!

Inasmuch as Elias Antonides, my hero, is Greek, and the Antonideses who have been reuning (reunioning?) are Dutch, this is pleasing as well as confusing. But I'm overjoyed that there are enough romance readers among the wonderful real-life Antonides family that they are glad Elias-Even-Though-He-Is-Greek-Antonides has been immortalized (well, sort of) in print. Thanks, all you Antonideses out there!

Now then, I have to go back and create a bit of havoc in Spence and Sadie's lives. They are getting along entirely too well right now. And spending far too much of their lives in bed. So, into every happy fictional life, an author worth her salt must let loose a rain cloud or thunderstorm or two. Get out your umbrellas, kids, here I come!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Another winner!

Congratulations to Trish Morey, wonderful Australian Presents author, for winning the RWAustralia's Romantic Book of the Year this past weekend at the conference there. It took me longer than I would have imagined to find out which book. (Should have looked at Trish's website first!). But it is called The Italian Boss's Secret Child.

I haven't read it yet, but obviously, since she won, you know it's gotta be good! So check Amazon or some other bookseller of choice and look for TIBSC and all the rest of Trish's books. You won't be disappointed!

Spence and Sadie are chugging along. Hooray.

Don't forget to enter my Wedding Bells II contest by Sept 1 on my website. The date of the wedding is getting closer and closer. It's running neck and neck with the end of my book! I think the wedding is going to win. But the book should at least be finished in rough draft stage by then -- and sent off the following week.

So, people, where are the lists of films I should be watching when I finish? Although maybe my friend Linda (aka Jessica) told you all before she told me, that she got me DVDs of the entire Laramie series for my birthday. Is that a great friend or what? Trouble is, now I want Spence and Sadie to just wait while I watch all 125 episodes.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Eight Second Wedding!

The other day I wrote about my "synopsis" for a book which I basically described as "They meet. He gets hit in the head. They go down the road. He gets hit in the head. They live happily ever after." And I asked if anyone could identify the book.

Someone did!

Kathleen Evans, bless her heart, tracked it down and sent me an email. So I'm sending her her very own copy of The Eight Second Wedding. It will be on its way tomorrow, Kathleen!

When I get back from the wedding next week (which had better be longer than eight seconds) I think perhaps we might start a scavenger hunt. What do you think? Is anyone out there bored enough to prowl around some authors' sites and find out answers to win a book or two?

I'm deep in the throes of writing the last 10,000 words of Spence and Sadie. I'm also compiling a list of titles using all the favorite Presents buzz words -- none of which seems to have anything to do with being hit in the head. Good thing, as Spence doesn't get hit at all, though believe me, I was tempted a time or two.

Must go get back to work. Let me know what you think about the possibility of a scavenger hunt. Tell me some more good movies. I just got Mostly Martha from Netflix. Haven't had time to watch it yet.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Light, The Tunnel and The End in Sight

Spent yesterday banging my head against the end of the chapter. I had Spence and Sadie right where I wanted them. And they wouldn't do anything. They wouldn't say anything. It's because I bragged about them talking. They just clammed up.

But today the dam broke. Today Spence said something inconsequential. And Sadie said something less consequential even than that. And I thought, blast it! Here we go again. And then, all of a sudden, he said something else, prodded her a little. And she snapped back with the first thing that came into her (my) head. And suddenly they were off. We got the scene. We bagged the chapter.

And now we've got a rough progression of the whole book. It's all there but the expansion. It all tracks. It all makes sense. Even more sense than I'd hope originally. (I have low expectations. It stands me in good stead when the characters don't behave. I just shrug and say, "That's just the way they are," and eventually they start to play nice. Usually.)

Anyway, it worked. And now all I have to do is write the last 12000 words in the next five days. Piece of cake. Not. But I should have it roughed in pretty well. Maybe very well. Who knows? I'm so relieved. I feel like I can breathe again.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Synopses . . . or why bother?

First of all, let me say that I can when pressed write a synopsis. They are on occasion even fun and interesting (not always, but sometimes).

Once I wrote a synopsis of a book for Harlequin American that was three or four pages single-spaced (I like to make editors think I write short, so three pages single spaced with double spaces between the paragraphs seems shorter than six double space pages. The 'heft factor' works in my favor, if nothing else. It's lighter to carry home on the bus). But I digress. . .

My perceptive writer friend Barbara Bretton read it (can't remember why because on the whole I never let synopses out of the house), and she said, "Ah, I get it. They meet. He gets hit in the head. They go down the road. He gets hit in the head. They live happily ever after."

Um, well, yes. Basically. You can see where I left myself a lot of room to maneuver in the middle. Flexible, that's me.

And often it works. But not this time. I didn't actually write anything that might have guided me through Spence and Sadie because . . . well, the book resisted. Every time I sat down to do it (and it would have been financially smarter to have done it), I couldn't. A gaping black hole appeared where my brain used to be. Once I moved away from the synopsis, shut the file, started to think about something else, the brain, as if by magic, reappeared. Dunno why. Some books are like that.

So . . . here I am now about 3/4 of the way through the book, and I think I see the end out there. I said so yesterday, didn't I?

Then I read a book last night that made me think, "See, McAllister? Not all heroes are inarticulate. Not all heroines are mute. Some can actually talk -- to each other. Why not yours?"

Good question. Why not mine?

So today they've been talking. And you know what? The last quarter of the book totally changed. They are still two chimps in a narrow dark tunnel. But they are really talking now. Substantively. And doing other things as well (for which Spence is exceedingly grateful and Sadie is delighted about and neither of them realize that DISASTER is about to befall them).

And you know what else? It isn't the same disaster that I thought was going to befall them. Not at all. It's a much more organic disaster, if that makes sense. It has grown much more intensely out of who they are. It's not a misunderstanding. Nor is it an exterior disaster. It's gut level -- the best kind. The kind that takes insight and character growth to resolve.

That's why I like to read other books while I'm writing. They make me think about my own book (vastly different than the one I read last night) in new ways. They jar my brain. They challenge Spence and Sadie. In other words, they help.

And since this time I'm not at all beholden to a synopsis I am happy to go with it and don't have to justify it to anyone. I've certainly changed books before when they didn't grow up to become adult versions of the synopses I started with. But I always feel faintly guilty when I do, as if I've led my editor astray.

But my editor hasn't been led astray at all this time. In fact she hasn't been led anywhere at all. She's just busy working on everyone else's books until Spence and Sadie come in.

It's interesting when this happens. It's healthy, I think. It means the book and the people have lives of their own. But honestly, I'll be glad when it's over. I'm getting really tired.

ps: if anyone can tell me the title of the Harlequin American described above, I'll send you a copy of it or of another title in my back list (because you obviously know that one already), limited only to it being one that I can actually find in my attic! Send me an email at the 'contact Anne' tab on my website or make a comment here if you know.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Up to my eyeballs . . .

Not much to say that I haven't said in the book in the last day or so. I can see the progression to the end now -- and poor Spence is going to have his work cut out for him. So's Sadie, for that matter. Exactly as it should be -- so when they finally get it done, they deserve each other.

In the meantime, if you haven't signed up to enter my Wedding Bells II contest in honor of my son's upcoming wedding (only a little over a week to go!) then, please drop by my website and sign up now. The Grand Prize winner gets a goody box of wedding-related books and some other nifty stuff I've been acquiring for my contest through the year. And three other winners get signed copies of my most recent title, The Antonides Marriage Deal.

While I'm here working the RWAustralia conference, with this year's theme "Some Like It Hot" is just beginning!

I remember being there two years ago when it was at Coogee Beach. This year it's in on the Gold Coast from August 11-13. Wish I were there. Hope you all have a great time!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Keeping Your Sanity . . . for writers

This is a presumptuous title, but I'm in the midst of trying to keep my sanity while also trying to finish a book in a given amount of time (not enough, mind you). And so I'm reflecting on how to do the former and the latter at the same time.

And I'll tell you what I've learned:

1) You can't write 24/7. Or at least I can't. I need time off to let the brain cool. I need to think about something else. I need space.

2) It is possible to do something else and let your brain cool and then come back having figured out, subliminally, what you need to do next, PROVIDING (and that for me is the operative word) you have "primed the pump" first. That is, before going to do something else, you focus very clearly on the situation in which you have left your freaking characters and allow your brain to grapple briefly with that. Then you go away . . . and you come back at least reasonably refreshed and, on occasion, with a notion of what might happen now.

3) Watching films and reading books while you're trying to write is a good thing. It lets you off the hook. You can watch someone else's creativity while giving yours a rest. And sometimes what you see or what you read will jar the next bit of your own book loose from the concrete of your mind and you can make some progress.

4) Even if it doesn't, you might learn a new word or two. The longer I write, the more limited my vocabulary becomes. About the time it gets down to 28-30 words, and every other one of them is "nodded" or "growled," I read and discover amazing words that are not usually in my active vocabulary but which I do recognize as part of the English language. "Fuming" for example. Or "contempuous." Seven dollar words, as Mark Twain might say, that I endeavor to work into my book at some point thereafter.

5) I might also find inspiration of a different sort. Last night, for example, I watched On A Clear Day, starring Peter Mullan and Brenda Blethyn. It was a heartening, sometimes funny, sometimes painful, sometimes joyous look at life. It made me think, as it was intended to do, about persevering and not quitting and how sometimes your best still isn't good enough. But even that, if you give it, is worth something. It validates you as a human being, and it makes a difference to all the other people in your life. Sound deep? Sound heavy? In this case it was moving and, at times, delightful. And it reminded me of how inter-connected all our lives are, even when we don't realize it.

6) For example, Frank, the main character in the film, for reasons that start out somewhat murky and gradually become clear, decides to swim the English Channel. He's in his 50s. He's got baggage, emotional and otherwise. He might not have a prayer of doing it. And yet his efforts not only save him, but they prod others into making efforts and changing, too. What Frank does not only affects his life, but the lives of everyone who is open to such change, such hope.

7) Which is what Frank did for me. But also what Lucy Monroe did for me, unbeknownst to her, the other day. I stopped by her blog again, for the first time since her conference party. And she was talking about having had "a good day." A good day for Lucy was writing 24 pages. Ye gods. That would be a "miracle day" in my book. It has probably happened twice in 20 years for me. Apparently it is good but not miraculous for Lucy. So more power to her. But however usual or unusual it is for her, it is inspiring to me. Just like Frank inspired his mates, Lucy inspired me. I won't be getting 24 pages done in one day any time soon. But I kept coming back to the desk for the rest of that day -- and the day after and the day after that. I have kept plugging away in my own good time, making the progress I can make. Pleased -- and still sane -- as I did it.

8) It's the Bird By Bird principal at work. In her book of the same title, Anne LaMott explains the slow steady slog from start to finish. There are moments of greater stress, certainly, when deadlines loom. But flashes of brilliance aren't the ticket to getting a book done. They are nice, but they alone don't write novels. Novels are written bird by bird, stroke by stroke, page by page. Or, sometimes, line by bloody line, and word by painful word.

9) In the end it's about the story. Remaining true to the story is the easiest way I know to staying sane. It corrects the misapprehension that this book and the writing of it is "all about me." It's not. I'm the conduit. I am the medium. The characters are the reason. I need to simply show up and write. There will, on occasion, be flashes of brilliance -- like those infrequent wonderful moments when it all comes together (one of which I had a week or so ago) -- but mostly it will be days of just showing up. Hours of just thinking. More time than I would like to recall taking out stuff I've just put in. Work. But work that is done with balance. Slow and steady always. And faster and steady when the story permits.

10) And, like Frank, never giving up.

Seen any good movies lately? I'm always on the lookout. I'd appreciate some recommendations!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Dilemma? No, Idiot

He has a moral dilemma?

No, he's an idiot. He's driving me crazy. We're in the most beautiful place on earth, sharing the most gorgeous treehouse accommodations imaginable (it's like a sort of romantic Swiss Family Robinson place, if you know what I mean). And he's off hacking up coconuts. And climbing mountains, and diving to the Great Wall of China or something.

He spent dinner last night talking about seeing orange doves and azure crowned flycatchers and, for all I know, yellow-bellied sapsuckers. Like we came here for birdwatching!

Business would be preferable to this. I'm sure Spence thinks so, too. But Mr Isogawa (you'll meet him in the book) has his agenda and it's not exactly the same as Spence's. And I would feel sorry for him (Spence, not Mr Isogawa) but, like I said, he's an idiot.

Also he (Spence) reads this blog (sometimes) or I would tell you more of what I think about him. Suffice to say, he hasn't got a clue. And thank God for that.

He just came in and said there are five kinds of bats on this island, as if it were something I was dying to know. I'm mean, I'm as interested in bats as the next person, but did I come to Fiji to meet bats? But now he wants to know if I want to go see them.

What do you think?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Moral Dilemmas

Spence here.
Long time, no see. Been busy. We've made some progress. Finally.

And after an interminable time on an airplane -- while Anne got her act together -- we're finally in Fiji and can stretch our legs. We could do a few other things, too, while we're here. And I think you know what . . .

Or we could if I didn't think that doing it was going to screw up the only good thing in my life.

So, it's a dilemma. There's immediate gratification -- provided I don't get a shoe thrown at me -- and there's, well, honor. Common sense. The long haul. The big picture. Trying To Do The Right Thing.

All of the above.

What I want to know is: why is doing The Right Thing so damn hard? And what the hell is Sadie mad about? She should be GLAD I'm trying, shouldn't she?

I'm doing this for her. Or NOT doing it for her. But is she grateful? Hell, no. She breezes around in next to nothing one minute -- and then she acts like Ms. I'm-All-Business the next. What's up with that?

At least we're making progress on the deal. Business is working out. You can always count on business. It's the only thing a guy can trust.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Something to look forward to . . .

Spence and Sadie have been loitering around the South Pacific, specifically Fiji, for a couple of weeks now. And so I've done a lot of Fiji research, which included going back over the material my stepdad brought back from the islands 35 years ago. He had first been there in WWII and if anyone can be said to have 'enjoyed' his experience in the war, at least the part when he was in Fiji not getting shot at was enjoyable. He'd loved it there and had always wanted to go back. So when he retired, he did.

He came back with lots of stories to tell and I, of course, only half listened because I was dealing with a new baby and a lot of my own reality at the time. I should have paid more attention to his. I could have learned stuff that would have helped me -- and Spence and Sadie -- get through this book.

But at least now I have the internet. And I have had a wonderful time taking virtual visits to Fiji on the internet. I think my favorite island so far is Taveuni. It's called "the garden island" and the pictures I've found amply demonstate why. But it isn't the garden aspect that appeals to me so much as the laid-back easy-going atmosphere that everyone talks about. It sounds like a great place to get away from high-powered stress and get in touch with what really matters -- and have a good time as well. Of course I haven't been there, so I might be wrong.

Anyone reading this been there? Anyone reading this been to Fiji? If so, please leave a comment. Let me know your impressions, your likes and dislikes, your recommendations of places to go and things to see and do.

Because . . . and this is what I mean when I said "something to look forward to" -- we might actually do it!

Last week I said to my New Zealand writer friend, Robyn Donald, that I would like to go to Fiji. Robyn writes heavenly books about the South Pacific, so I have been picking her brain regularly. And I said, "If we ever get there, will you guys come, too?" And she wrote back at once and said, "If you come, we will be waiting at the airport to meet you."

Well, now . . . I can hardly ignore an offer like that. We had so much fun with Robyn and her husband in New Zealand two years ago, that we would adore meeting them in Fiji. And we have a milestone anniversary coming up next year (the big 4.0.). So The Prof suggested that we might celebrate by meeting Robyn and her husband in Fiji. Sounds like a deal to me! I think I might even be able to get another book -- or two -- out of it.

We'll see. Anyway, we're open to other suggestions as well. I don't think we have ever gone anywhere to celebrate anything, so maybe it's time we did. Feel free to point us in whatever direction you think we should take. We'd love to learn about other wonderful spots in the world.

Friday, August 04, 2006

If I'd Known Then What I Know Now . . .

. . . Spence and Sadie would have been a lot easier to write. It's the groping through to understanding the characters that takes so blinkin' much time!

Once you know where they've been, it's easy to see what they should have been doing back in chapter two or three or four. Hell, it's easy to see what they should have done yesterday. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. And unlike real life, it's actually useful in books. You can go back and change things. You can let them open doors they left closed in earlier versions. You can yank useless people out of the book and stick in dead husbands where they are required (trust me, sometimes they are. Who knew? No, not here. Not this book.).

Anyway, if I'd known then what I know now, I could have written the book in a month. And I wouldn't have had nearly the stress. Of course that's not over yet. Because everything I know now I can use back there. And will.

But the stuff I don't know yet . . . well, that's the hard part. If I knew now what I'll know tomorrow, writing would be lots faster and less messy.

But at least we're gathering momentum now. We just might get this thing finished by the time we're supposed to. And Spence and Sadie and I can have a well-earned rest. We won't be going to Fiji for it, though. But Montana is a fine place to be. So's a wedding. Happily ever afters everywhere -- but work to do first.

Don't forget the contest on my website. If you haven't entered, please do. The dogs will thank you! (They get treats to choose winners. Everybody -- canine at least -- wins that way).

Thursday, August 03, 2006


I am tired of writing about Spence and Sadie's trials -- suffice to say, they are off the plane and things are moving -- and I thought I would mention the latest film I watched courtesy of Netflix last night.

It is called Possession and is based on the book by A.S. Byatt of the same title. I enjoyed the book a number of years ago -- in part because my husband, The Prof, is a prof and we know all about academic oneupsmanship and backstabbing. When he was in grad school it was everywhere. In big universities it's a way of life.

The story is about a couple of academics, played by Aaron Eckhart and Gwyneth Paltrow, who find themselves allies trying to track down information that will blow the lid off previous academic scholarship about the life of a couple of noteworthy 19th century literati. The story is a romance on two levels -- modern and 19th century -- and it portrays academic life pretty much as it really can be (except I only ever had one professor who looked remotely like Aaron Eckhart, and I don't think anyone has ever had one who looked like Gwyneth Paltrow!)

There is a wonderfully telling line in the early part of the movie, where Fergus Wolff, who is a bit higher in the academic food chain than Eckhart's character, Roland Michell, remarks smugly that Michell is at the bottom. And Michell says, "Yes, but at least I'm still on it."

The trick is not to get eaten. Unless you've met men who will stab each other in the back over Victorian poets, though, you can't imagine how they could be real. They are. Ask The Prof. Ask Kate Walker's husband. Ask any academic you know.

Anyway, it was a nice adaptation of the book. Aaron Eckhart makes a wonderfully scruffy American post-grad dealing with centuries of British "We Know Best." He's possibly a bit of a caricature of the brash American, but he backs off enough that you can't help but cheer for him. Especially when the prize is not only proving that Ash really did have a relationship with LaMotte and thereby securing his academic position, but also Gwyneth Paltrow. Heck of a deal.

I enjoyed the film a lot. If you aren't married to an academic or if books and old letters don't intrigue you, don't bother -- unless you just like looking at Aaron Eckhart or Gwyneth Paltrow. That could be reason enough, and I completely understand.

It's a pleasure to see a film made from a book that doesn't wholly destroy all the good memories you've got of the book. I'm looking forward to watching the commentary tonight -- after Spence and Sadie get me into the next chapter.

By the way, the prizes from the drawings at Lucy's blog and The Great Montana Cowboy Auction have been sent out to the winners. So if you were a winner -- Linda, Cathie, Judy, and Cherie, this means you -- keep your eye out for them.

And if you haven't entered the Wedding Bells II contest, please drop by my website and do so on the contest link. It ends September 1st.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Weddings Bells II Contest Opens

One of my sons is getting married later this month, and in honor of his wedding, I'm doing a Wedding Bells II contest (like the one I had when one of his brothers got married last year).

The grand prize will be a Goody Box of wedding related books and a basket with some other fun stuff that I hope you will enjoy. Three other prize winners will receive signed copies of my most recent Presents, The Antonides Marriage Deal.

If you want to enter, go to my website and click on the contest tab. Fill in the form and your name will be in the drawing. Gunnar (and his cohorts, Micah and Mitch) get to pick the winners. And the more entrants the better because they get a slip of paper with every entrant's name and a treat on top of it. The first one they pick wins the grand prize. And we go from there.

So . . .they want LOTS of entries, please. The contest ends September 1st, 2006.

Winner . . .

In case you're looking for the winner of The Great Montana Cowboy Auction book, it is

Cherie Japp!

Full notice below the Moment To Remember . . . post

A moment to remember . . .

Actually it was more than a moment. It was almost an hour.

It was amazing. Wholly unexpected. And yet, if I had to explain to anyone why I write -- and sometimes I do find myself explaining -- I would say that I write for the joy of those rare and beautiful moments of unexpected connection. They make it all worthwhile.

Remember a couple of days ago when I was discussing (okay, whining about) the 145 takes I'd already put in on the airplane to Fiji scene? And remember how the next day I said the 146th take had done it. We were off the plane. Home free.

Well, of course, I spoke too soon. I spent yesterday back on the plane again. Mopping up. Straightening. Smoothing. Adding stuff so that Spence and Sadie weren't just talking heads or angsting heads, dithering in endless internal monologues. I was happy enough with the stuff I had written, but I felt it needed a bit of polish.

And then, in the process of polishing, Spence said something to Sadie he hadn't said before. It was almost a question. But not quite. He was looking for an answer, but not wanting to admit it. And he certainly wasn't expecting the answer he got.

Nor was I. What Sadie said astonished Spence and drowned me in memories I hadn't touched in probably at least 30 years. I wasn't expecting the flood of recollections, of possibilities, of connections that her answer evoked. I wasn't expecting to find answers there. And as they came, I was as bowled over as Spence was.

He has even more questions now. But I have answers he'll get in time.

Writing this book has been, for the most part, like spending months in a narrow dark tunnel with a couple of uncommunicative chimpanzees. We bump into each other a lot, and they try to tell me what matters to them. Only I don't speak their language and we've all been getting a bit frustrated.

And then, all of a sudden: breakthrough. One of them says something in a language I understand. Or maybe now they've been talking to me long enough I understand their language at last. Then the other one starts composing riffs and singing harmony and it all makes sense. And suddenly we're no longer in a tunnel and there's no darkness anywhere. There are just these wonderful emotions and memories and people named Spence and Sadie are talking to each other. And to me. And I can hardly write fast enough.

I got it all down. It was after midnight and I didn't want to quit. But they'd said all they had to say for the night. They were ready to turn in, even if I was willing to go on. So I quit, too. But I have what I need now. Last night, completely without warning, I had a glimpse of their past -- and, even better, a view of the future they can have together. And now I have the knowledge to see that it happens.

Of course they'll have to do a bit of suffering first. We're barely halfway there. But I know them a lot better now. There might be shadowy places and tunnels again. But the chimp suits are gone. We're speaking the same language now.

It was wonderful. Memorable. A real high. It's what I love most about writing. It's great to have a book accepted, to see it in print, to be told how much it touched someone else's life (which is really really wonderful indeed, but not why I write). But those moments when there is a pure full connection between the characters and the author and the page, those are the moments I show up for each morning. They're rare and beautiful and special enough to keep me coming back.

You can't plan it. You can't demand it. You can only show up day after day after day. And if you do -- and if you're lucky -- someday a character will say something that is the key to the story and makes it all worthwhile.

It happened to me and Spence and Sadie last night.

Who knew?

And the winner is . . . .

Gunnar has gone through all the treats (he gets one per name, so he's pretty stuffed, thank you all very much) -- and he's picked a winner!

Cherie Japp!

So, Cherie, if you will email me your address in the next 24 hours, I will send off your signed copy of The Great Montana Cowboy Auction! If I don't hear from you, I will put Gunnar to work again, picking a different winner.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by from Lucy's blog or who is a regular here who entered. I'm delighted there were so many of you who took part. (So's Gunnar).